It was cold and spitting rain as I pulled into Basingstoke, my usual jumping-off point for trains to London. The drive up from the coast was quicker than expected, despite the rain, and I connected with the fast train north waiting at the platform, arriving hours early for my meetings.
‘so, with time to spare for some art!
I always like the challenge of the Whitechapel Gallery, generally in-my-face provocative, somewhere between ‘horrors’ and ‘make-me-smile’. I wandered over for a look, but they are currently between shows, so there was only a gigantic stack of books arranged by French-Algerian sculptor Kadir Attia, Light of Jacob’s Ladder (I could not see the imagery in it that the Guardian found). Upstairs, a collection of sculpted figures was arranged across a wooden platform – the perspectives were interesting, but nothing cohesive in the group.
‘better next time, when there’s a show on.
I moved on across town to the Tate; it’s still wonderful to be able to wander in any time to see the current exhibitions as a Member. The Turbine Hall has sprouted a gigantic wing by postminimalist artist Richard Tuttle (The full exhibit doesn’t open for a few days). The background notes say that his representations should evoke feelings from the character of the materials, more than from the object being depicted. While the textiles accent the sculpture, it’s hard to tell if it’s being constructed or deconstructed. But in size alone, the work is an ironic departure for an artist known for smaller, much more intimate works.
I went on to visit the collected paintings of Kazimir Malevich, a Russian artist who used geometric forms, squares and circles with a limited palette of grey and brown colours. Again, the background notes say that he was minimalist, trying to evoke sensations in the observer without any reference to external objects. In this way, he differs from Kandinsky, who used a similar geometry as symbolism for real things.
Malevich began as a figurative painter, though, and I liked the bold colour and simplicity of his works at the exhibit’s start (texting madly to an artist-friend who agreed throughout).
Mid-exhibit, Malevich had evolved into painting cubist works that were fascinating to try to sort out (Morning in the Village after Snowstorm, left, and Lady in Tram, right).
His work becomes progressively more spare after that, culminating in his most famous painting, The Black Square. Flat and featureless, the canvas simply draws you into it, evoking both possibility and dread in my mind. Critics debate it’s meaning and significance, whether it’s even art. The controversy, as the painting, is intriguing.
Malevich kept repeating the geometric motif in various forms over subsequent years, the works becoming repetitive and less interesting, before he stopped altogether. (I gave up on the last third as well.)
After the stark tour of abstraction, it was nice to take a tea out onto the balcony and refresh in the light, colour, and detail of reality, the early afternoon drift of water and clouds through London.
3 pm: I headed towards the conference center. The meetings went well, and, afterwards, the trains were on time.The drive south was quiet and thoughtful, the roads clear and wet, glistening with leaves.
A day evoking CP Snow’s Two Cultures, but fitting together nicely.